The 24th Chicago International Film Festival, now into its final days, still has some 40-odd programs to go, reviews and descriptions of which can be found below.

A few specifics: Screenings are at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln; the Three Penny, 2424 N. Lincoln; the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport; and Ida Noyes Hall on the University of Chicago campus, 59th and Woodlawn. Tickets can be purchased at the theater box office starting one hour prior to the first screening of the day, at the film festival store at 2476 N. Lincoln, or by calling 281-2433 (credit cards only). General admission to each program, with some exceptions, is $6.50, $5 for Cinema/Chicago members. All weekend matinees (3:00 and 5:00 on Saturday; 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 on Sunday) are $4 general admission, $3 for Cinema/Chicago members.

For further information, call 281-2433 (questions) or 644-3456 (24-hour recorded update/hotline), listen to radio station WBEZ FM (91.5), or watch WMAQ TV (channel five) for updates and coverage. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Friday November 4

Story of Fausta

Fausta (Betty Faria) is Mother Courage minus the children and the wagon. She is scrappy, mercenary, vulgar, and a survivor and trapped in poverty in a squalid shantytown in Rio de Janeiro with a whining husband who is twice the jerk that she is. Her only attractive trait is a scrupulous lack of self-pity, and in fact Fausta comes perilously close to a Reagan cabinet caricature of the “undeserving poor” at ill-paid work and immoral play. But not to worry. Fausta gets nothing she doesn’t go out and grab. Story of Fausta is a stringently unsentimental and unapologetic portrayal of a rough-and-tumble character coping like crazy with debasement and despair, and the audience certainly will be left in some doubt over the filmmakers’ attitude toward the woman’s plight, which might–and might not–be the Brechtian intent. The film is centered so solidly within Fausta’s cramped and bitter perspective that not even a wisp of a hint of a suggestion that anything or anyone can change ever comes across. Director Bruno Barreto announces in the press kit that he “wanted to tell a story about money and affection, and how money turns into affection.” This sort of thing is supposed to happen all the time in singles bars but it is no more credible an event on film than elsewhere. Fausta meets an ancient lech with a large wallet, leaves her husband, and displays maybe a glimmer of genuine warmth in the course of force-marching her feeble benefactor through the nightclub circuit. It all ends literally in a vast puddle, and structurally in a bit of a muddle, but Fausta displays a weird sort of (self-described) “alley cat” integrity throughout. Chancy, but it might be worth a look. (KJ) (Biograph, 6:00)

Winning Short Subjects

Award winners from this year’s competition. (Music Box, 6:00)

Wait for Me in Heaven

Antonio Mercero’s awkward, inert comedy about a middle-aged businessman named Paulino Alonso, who is abducted and forced to pose as Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s double, can’t overcome its abrupt transitions, moribund acting, or political stonewalling. Impressive set pieces (a Felliniesque musical number performed in surreal death masks at a whorehouse) are suppressed to conform to frantic plot lines or implausible action. The hapless protagonist, programmed to imitate Franco, is passive and unfocused, an unwitting accomplice in manufacturing a perverse illusion of Franco. Alonso stands in for Franco, performing perfunctory services–meeting dignitaries, visiting mines–under the oppressive eye of NO-DO, the Falange Espanolo’s propaganda newsreels. What clarity exists is obliterated by Mercero’s insistence on slapstick (ensuing from secondary characters’ inability to distinguish Franco from his double) or an unconvincing summoning of the supernatural. What is pleasing or welcome is canceled out by incompetence: Manuel Rojas’s agile, admirable cinematography is suffocated in the wake of Carmelo A. Bernaola’s turgid score. Politically the film is both obtuse and specious. Except for an early scene in a cemetery, there’s no attempt to assess the impact of the civil war on Spanish politics or culture; the period detail and re-creation go only so far as cars and surface effects. Judging from the maddening complacency with which Alonso’s wife instructs her husband not to “mess with politics,” Mercero’s film is a paean to blinding servitude. What is particularly offensive is the portrait of the generalissimo as a benign autocrat rather than the ruthless cutthroat most histories bear him out to be. Any sympathy garnered to this point dissipates, like straw in the wind. (PZM) (Univ. of Chicago, 6:00)


Andrei Smirnov is not exactly a household name in America, nor for that matter in Russia, where only one of his films (the immensely popular and often-revived Byelorussian Railway Station) was ever released as made. Ten years ago he gave up making films. As became clear in a retrospective of his work at the 1988 Montreal film festival–part of the amazing worldwide glasnost release of a veritable cornucopia of great Soviet cinema never shown but thankfully archived and recently restored–Smirnov was a major figure in the Soviet “new wave,” which, if but seen at the time, might have influenced the course of cinema history. Yet, strangely enough, the discovery of that new wave seems more opportune now than it might have been then. For, at a time when most movies seem to retread the recent past, the Soviet experiment of the late 60s-early 70s goes to a source as yet untapped–the immensely vital postrevolutionary Russian silent era, when image and thought were inseparable, and the shock of immediacy unavoidable. Autumn (1974) seems an odd choice for an American Smirnov premiere. Two lovers (who through misunderstanding didn’t marry when they should have) find themselves–a divorce and a marriage later–sharing some vacation time together in the countryside, where their lives and their values come into increasingly sharp focus. A low-key, reflective film, Autumn displays little of the mad exuberance, sweeping historicity, and cut-loose pyrotechnics that seem to characterize Soviet films of the period. Yet perhaps more than any other Smirnov film, Autumn does provide the link between that new wave and current Soviet cinema, since it is in the intimate “little” film, full of mute gestures, words unspoken, and thoughts unmitigated–and quite untouched by the recent worldwide wave of epic revisionism–that the enduring values of Soviet silent cinema have best survived. (RS) (Three Penny, 7:00)

Straight for the Heart

The latest feature of Swiss-born, Montreal-based Lea Pool (whose La femme de l’hotel caused quite a stir on the international scene a few years ago) is the kind of freewheeling, open-ended film one feared could no longer be made. It’s the tale of a photographer, Kurwenal, who returns to Montreal after a harrowing assignment in South America only to find that the other two members of the menage a trois he’s called home for ten years have left him. What ostensibly follows is a familiar, almost clinical pattern of disorientation, obsession, and disintegration. But if the pattern is familiar, the way it’s treated certainly is not. Far from identifying with the bathwater as it goes down the drain with the baby, Lea Pool’s film is a celebration of sanity, a celebration her hero, after a much-needed rest cure, is ready to join in on. For all along–even as our hero acts out center stage his trauma, his inability to desire anything but what’s lost–there lurks within each frame and just outside, around every corner and between every cut, wondrous possibilities Kurwenal may be too demoralized to follow up on, but is never too blind to notice and record. Yet though Kurwenal’s profession (and, by extension, filmmaker Pool’s) provides the occasion for some pretty heady dialectics (which both cameras never hesitate to explore), it doesn’t constitute a privileged viewpoint, a “special” artistic sensibility. It’s not the ability but the will to see that separates the sheep from the goats, and the sane from their opposite. (RS) (Biograph, 8:30)

Private Access

Ornella Muti stars in Francesco Maselli’s Italian film involving a writer, a computer, and a broken love affair. (Music Box, 8:30)

Keep Your Right Up

Jean-Luc Godard’s new comedy feature. A review appears in last week’s Reader under Thursday, November 3. (Univ. of Chicago, 8:30)


This is the first film produced by English Granada TV specifically for theatrical release. It was written by Fred Clarke, whose credits include the script for Letter to Brezhnev, and directed by Philip Saville, who helmed the remarkable TV miniseries The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. The central characters are two gay, 17-year-old Liverpudlians: Eddie (Emile Charles), a naive and idealistic mulatto whose mother spends most of her time looking at the telly and eating bonbons while his father calls him “faggot” and smacks him around; and Michael (Tony Forsyth), a streetwise young hustler. They frequent a transvestite nightclub called the Fruit Machine (the original British release title of the film), not to cruise but to get away from the everyday world of inner-city misery. The mother hen of the club, the rotund drag queen Anabelle, is excellently played by the Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane, who looks a bit like Benny Hill. Anabelle is murdered by a narcissistic closet-case psycho kung-fu killer who is out to get gays. The boys witness the crime and flee to Brighton. The final sequence descends into utter bathos when Eddie attempts to free the dolphins in a Marineland-type show and put them back in the sea, and the dolphins’ captivity becomes a symbol of the oppression of gays. The intense nonsexual friendship of the two adolescents is well observed and often moving, but Wonderland, though never boring, is a mess. (ES) (Three Penny, 9:30)

The Act

A psychological mystery from Hector Faver, an Argentinean now residing in Spain. A review appears in last week’s Reader under Wednesday, November 2. (Univ. of Chicago, 10:15)


British director John Akomfrah, a native of Ghana, mixes fiction and documentary in this feature about a black newswoman returning to Ghana after a 22-year absence (having left after being arrested for supporting a deposed Ghanaian ruler) to cover the filming of Werner Herzog’s movie Cobra Verde. A review appears in last week’s Reader under Wednesday, November 2. Note: this film screened in Chicago at the Film Center last July. (Biograph, 10:30)

Walking After Midnight

Since ancient times, people have sought spiritual nourishment in the idea of reincarnation. This self-styled “docudrama” appeals to that hunger, but instead of soul food all we get here is bubble gum for the brain. In this cinematic cross between the National Enquirer and Tiger Beat, various theories on and experiences with death and rebirth are expounded by a cast that is nothing if not eclectic, including Ringo Starr, Martin Sheen, Catherine Oxenberg, James Coburn, Dennis Weaver, Zelda Rubinstein, Rae Dawn Chong, and, um, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. These and other pop celebs prove more amusing than enlightening: Ringo’s disembodied head floating across a primeval landscape spouting portentous-sounding pronouncements; Sheen recalling his past life as a Civil War-era cowboy (“I was cruel to horses . . . a trait I carried over from Roman times”); the pop singer Donovan discussing his studies in spirituality (“I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was quite far out”); actress Helen Shaver recalling her life in ancient Greece, where she was seduced and then strangled by her hunky warrior son; and Canadian country singer K.D. Lang maintaining that she is the reincarnation of Patsy Cline. (Not that Lang would ever try to exploit that connection–even though her backup group is called the Reclines.) To spice up this material, director Jonathon Kay drags in extensive and increasingly tedious Koyaanisqatsi-style footage of fast-motion cloud movements, sunrises, explosions, city traffic, etc, along with a large collection of often irrelevant and usually uncredited clips from other movies and TV shows: The Time Machine, Atlantis, the Lost Continent, Poltergeist, Quest for Fire, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hammer Films’ The Mummy, and even My Mother the Car. The sound track features selections from George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson (who gets to plug two of his music videos), and the late Ms. Cline, whose “Walking After Midnight” gives this schlocky rip-off its title. (AW) (Music Box, 10:30)

Saturday November 5

In the Name of God

Since coordinating the astonishing record of the decline and fall of the Allende era in Battle of Chile, Patricio Guzman has continued to make documentaries from a base in Madrid. In the Name of God is a sober, informative look at everyday oppression under the Pinochet government and, more important, networks of everyday resistance. Guzman, who was able to film without censorship and with the help of many steadfast community organizers, focuses particularly on the role of the Catholic clergy. Backed by Spanish television, the film may sometimes lack context for an American audience, but it is quickly becoming a historical record in the wake of the recent plebiscite. In the Name of God offers a solid background to explain the resounding quality of the no vote to Pinochet, showing the endurance and depth of the Chilean public’s political activism. (PA) (Music Box, 1:00)

Winning Student Films

Award winners from this year’s international competition. (Three Penny, 1:OO)

Electric Blue

Elfriede Gaenge’s Italian children’s film Blu eletrico, with Claudia Cardinale. According to the festival schedule, this is about “two lonely and neglected rich children” who “begin to believe that the road to Paradise can be found through a mysterious nanny and the deaths of a success [sic] of insects and small animals.” Whether “success” is a typo for “succession” or an ungrammatical indication of metaphysical speculations beyond our ken remains to be seen. (Biograph, 3:00)


Johan de Bakker is a first-rate baker, meticulous in his trade and exacting in his recreational pursuits, which include balancing eggs, building towers of pebbles by the river, and waiting stoically in the town square for the daily bus to arrive. Illiterate and hardly exacting in his social skills, Johan is a 35-year-old child and the enigmatic hero of the charming Dutch comedy Egg. His slightly more worldly friends decide to play Cyrano, and their ghostwritten love letters on his behalf provoke a woman’s visit “from foreign climes.” Set in a tiny, unidentified village in the north of Holland, Egg takes its eccentric characters at face value, and Israeli-born writer-director Danniel Danniel’s cheerfully deadpan approach is reminiscent of early Jacques Tati. Skillfully introducing the villagers through their mundane routines, Danniel weaves a whimsical fable based in limited realities where more than one outcome is possible. With a talented cast that includes Johan Leysen in the lead and Marijke Veugelers as the pen pal, Egg succeeds as an offbeat comedy through understatement and authentic charm. (RP) To be shown with Stiller, Garbo & I (see below). (Music Box, 3:00)

Stiller, Garbo & I

For the nostalgic lovers of early cinema, catching a glimpse of Greta Garbo on a black-and-white piece of film is always a moving experience, and those are the moments that redeem Stiller, Garbo & I from sheer silliness. Swedish-born Mauritz Stiller (1883-1928), of Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919), Erotikon (1920), and Hotel Imperial (1927) fame, discovered a promising talent, trained her, renamed her Greta Garbo, and gave her the part of the Italian countess in his Atonement of Gosta Berling (1924). Stiller and Garbo had an intense, emotional relationship, and eventually married–in spite of their 20-odd-year age difference. Even though, as a witness reports, “some women have claimed to have had carnal relationships with Stiller,” the director’s avowed homosexuality suggests that the marriage was purely platonic. Stiller, then an internationally acclaimed genius, was lured to Hollywood, but insisted on the condition that he bring his “star” with him. A family snapshot shows him on the verge of embarking for America, smiling between his glamorous wife and his young male lover. Such happiness, however, was not to last. While Garbo was riding high on the road to glory, Stiller didn’t hit it off too well with the studio system, was denied the right to direct Garbo–now “hot property”–and, brokenhearted, returned to die in Sweden. This is the story of Stiller and Garbo, which, even told in a rather conventional way (archival footage, interviews, etc), provides interesting insights on the life of one of the great creators of silent cinema–such as, for example, his Jewishness (Stiller’s real first name was Mosche, and he was buried in a Jewish cemetery). Unfortunately, there is “I,” the filmmakers’ subjective imprint, a fictional (?) character assuming the identity of Stiller’s grand-nephew, a young nerd fascinated by what happened to Stiller’s beloved dog Charlie, by the reflection of his own nude body, and by an elusive blond cutie he mistakes for Garbo (I wonder why). The film seems to come to the conclusion that every man is always searching for his Garbo–unless it is for his Charlie–or maybe both. Since Stiller Garbo & I makes it plain that not every woman is Greta Garbo, I will point out to directors Claes Olsson and Alvaro Pardo that not everyone can be a filmmaking genius either–and that wraps up the case for me. (BR) This film is being screened with Egg (see above). (Music Box, 3:00)

Voices of Sarafina

The scene documenting the meeting of the Broadway musical Sarafina’s cast of South African children with exiled singer and activist Miriam Makeba is incredibly moving. Still, it’s not quite enough to make you overlook this documentary’s deficiencies. Sponsored by the show’s producers, and inevitably headed toward PBS, it does not confront the controversy that erupted last summer over the director’s harsh disciplinary methods. The film alternates between the production of the show and the South African political context in a fairly mechanical way (a film called Woza Albert blended South African theater and politics far more effectively). Amazingly, we never get to see the children’s reactions to leaving South Africa and living in New York (or is confinement in the theater part of their discipline?). (RH) (Univ. of Chicago, 3:00)

The Abyss

This film by one of the best Belgian directors, Andre Delvaux, adapted from a Marguerite Yourcenar novel set in the 16th century, follows a dissident doctor from Flanders who is hounded throughout Europe for his views and falls into the hands of the Inquisition. (JR) (Biograph, 5:00)

Friends for Life

Alain Chartrand’s French Canadian Des amis pour la vie, which sounds like a remake of Clouzot’s Le corbeau and Preminger’s The 13th Letter, concerns the effects of a series of anonymous letters on a group of retired friends. (Music Box, 5:00)


Also known as Les guerisseurs, Sijiri Bakaba’s Ivory Coast-French coproduction is about a young executive who returns to his native Nagbanj after two years in France and discovers that the desire for money has taken over his country. (Univ. of Chicago, 5:00)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Michal Leszczlowski’s Swedish documentary about the making of the great Soviet filmmaker’s last feature, The Sacrifice. A mixture of footage and interviews with actors and technicians (including cinematographer Sven Nykvist) produces a fascinating and intelligent portrait. Of particular interest is a detailed account of the production difficulties attending the remarkable ten-minute take that served as The Sacrifice’s penultimate shot, during which an entire house was burned to the ground. Technical problems sabotaged the first take of this shot, and the entire house had to be reconstructed so that it could be burned down a second time. Tarkovsky’s dark mysticism and moodiness are respected by this documentary rather than intruded upon, but the overall insights into his working methods that are offered remain pertinent. (JR) (Three Penny, 5:00)

The Revolving Doors

Leaving her rural Canadian turn-of-the-century Partridge-like family for the lure of a small-town movie house, Celeste Beaumont (Monique Spaziani) gains limited fame as a silent-movie pianist with a flamboyant style. Celeste marries a man who silently adores her, silently acquiesces to his wealthy snobbish parents, and silently marches to his World War I death. Celeste flees her in-laws to search for jazz. Meanwhile in contemporary Canada a silent brooding artist virtually ignores his estranged wife and his piano-playing son until the arrival of a mysterious package. Francis Mankiewicz’s The Revolving Doors supposedly wowed some at Cannes, but this weakly drawn, soft-focus ode to the past is trite beyond belief. A major disappointment from a director of wit and energy as evidenced in last year’s And Then You Die. (NR) (Biograph, 7:00)

Wait for Me in Heaven

Antonio Mercero’s Spanish comedy about a hero who assumes the role of Franco’s double. A review appears under Friday, November 4. (Music Box, 7:00)

Hanna’s War

The resistance of Jews to the Nazis in Eastern Europe is the subject of Menahem Golan’s new, nearly two-and-a-half-hour feature, starring Ellen Burstyn and Maruschka Detmers. (Univ. of Chicago, 7:00)

Foreign City

Despite a nagging feeling that one has seen this film–or one very much like it–many times before, Foreign City is not entirely without interest. There seems to be a favorite European theme every few years or so, and these days, when it’s not the postwar roots of present-day evils, it’s that the wages of yuppiedom is downward mobility. While in America this is generally a subject for comedy and wreaks havoc only among the young (e.g., Desperately Seeking Susan, After Hours, Something Wild), in Europe it’s the angst-ridden middle aged who tend to come down with a bad case of nostalgie de la boue and are soon spiraling downward out of control into danger and degradation, not necessarily in that order.

In the case of Foreign City, Didier Goldschmidt’s first feature, it’s a dream of murder that causes a mild-mannered Austrian press attache in Paris to malfunction, bursting in fervid desperation through the thin walls of repression that hem him in, to shock and disorient those around him. Unfortunately the film fails to do as much for the viewer. Niels Arestrup makes a suitably imploded Teutonic hero and Anne Wiazemsky a convincingly ragged-around-the-edges wife, and events do proceed, though with little excitement. But there’s a simplistic “given” quality to the whole setup that makes the supposedly unpredictable unfold with all the weary predictability, and none of the true uneasiness, of deja vu. (RS) (Three Penny, 7:00)


A first feature by French director Ariel Zeitoun follows the bloody progress of a beleaguered music producer who signs up a brother and sister saxophone duo who disappear after the murder of a prostitute. (Biograph, 9:30)


Philip Saville’s English feature combines an adolescent gay romance with thriller elements and reflections on the plight of dolphins. A review appears under Friday, November 4. (Music Box, 9:30)

Straight for the Heart

Lea Pool’s French Canadian feature about a menage a trois. A review appears under Friday, November 4. (Univ. of Chicago, 9:30)

Wherever You Are

The cinematic output of Krzysztof Zanussi probably constitutes Poland’s most significant contribution to the auteur theory in film. A highly prolific filmmaker (20 films in 20 years), Zanussi has remained remarkably consistent over the years with his choices of themes and characters. Zanussi’s films–most are based on his own screenplays–invariably thrive on intricate psychological structures woven with cold-blooded precision around a tormented individual or individuals. Wherever You Are, his most recent production, is no exception. The story revolves around Julian (Julian Sands) and Nina (Renee Soutendijk), a newlywed couple who arrive in Poland on the brink of World War II. Within weeks, Nina gets into an accident while horseback riding and begins to suffer from a progressing case of schizophrenia. Despite all his love and attention, there is very little Julian can do for Nina, and the couple’s distress vaguely parallels the deteriorating situation in Poland. Although Zanussi’s treatment of the material is intellectually and aesthetically satisfying, his distant and calculated approach to human tragedy seriously stultifies the film’s impact. Wherever You Are is the director’s first feature shot entirely in English. Like Diane Kurys and the Taviani brothers before him, Zanussi will likely discover that his idiosyncratic filmmaking style is rendered much more authentic with the use of his native tongue than with the language of Hollywood. (ZB) (Three Penny, 9:30)

Because the Dawn

Amy Goldstein’s American and all-female vampire film, to be shown with Forbidden to Forbid (see below). A review appears in last week’s Reader under Friday, October 28. (Music Box, 11:30)

Forbidden to Forbid

Lothar Lambert’s underground film of sketches from West Germany, to be shown with Because the Dawn (see above). A review appears in last week’s Reader under Friday, October 28. (Music Box, 11:30)

Sunday November 6

Voices of Sarafina

Nigel Noble’s documentary about black South Africans, including the cast of the musical Sarafina. A review appears under Saturday, November 5. (Biograph, 1:00)

Shoot and Cry

Helene Klodawsky’s French Canadian Des armes et des larmes (literally, “Arms and Tears”) is a documentary focusing on a discussion between young Israelis and Palestinians in a Haifa suburb about the issue of occupied territories. On the same program, Anne Anderson’s Canadian documentary Holding Our Ground, concerning a grass-roots women’s organization in a squatter community in the Philippines that is trying to find shelter for itself and street children. (Music Box, 1:00)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

A Swedish documentary about the shooting of Tarkovsky’s last feature, The Sacrifice. A review appears under Saturday, November 5. (Univ. of Chicago, 1:00)

Winning Documentaries

Award winners from this year’s competition. (Three Penny, 1:00)

Love Is a Fat Woman

There was a lot of advance buzz on Love Is a Fat Woman at the Berlin film festival, but after the screening it was hard to say why. The film reveals talent and an imaginative use of limited resources on the part of 24-year-old Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti (who began his film career at the precocious age of 15). On the other hand, it’s an uneven and quirky film, not quite living up to its aspirations. Agresti builds his story on Jose, an abrasive young joker of a journalist. Rankled by his experiences of Argentina’s social and political inequities, Jose goes off his rocker just enough to become a raging eccentric. There is an undercurrent of self-destructiveness in his subsequent exploits, including his attempt to stop an American documentary crew from filming scenes of poverty and his elaborate search for a past sweetheart who has ominously disappeared. Sometimes this mixture succeeds, but just as often it doesn’t, at least not in terms of the more accomplished models for Agresti’s attempt. The kind of zaniness that bursts up from the giddy depths of despair has long since been perfected in the Latin American cinema by directors like Tomas Gutierrez Alea, and angst-driven political comedy has been a staple of the Eastern European cinema since the 60s. While Love Is a Fat Woman has merit in the promise it shows, Agresti may have to decide whether he wants to move in the direction of profound tragedy or cutting satire–he hasn’t yet hit on a method for having it both ways. (BS) (Biograph, 3:00)

The Mother of Kings

While this film (aka Mother Kroll and Her Sons) has been billed as “a Polish version of Mother Courage,” that is true only in the broadest generic sense, for it lacks any hint of Brecht’s stinging satire. It’s a realistic, plodding, though by no means unwatchable drama spanning 20 years in the life of a suffering mother. The film begins in 1938 with a street accident in which Lucia Kroll’s husband is killed. Shortly afterward she gives birth to her fourth son. From 1938 through 1956 the travails of keeping alive and launching her rambunctious sons in the world change character in relation to Poland’s shifting politics, but the stern faces of authority never seem to change. She’s an archetypal victim of circumstance. Not a Communist party member, she gets in trouble with the Nazis for working as a cleaning lady for a man who is. Her older sons join the resistance and they get in trouble, and so forth, for the next two decades. Probably the best thing about the film is that Maria Teresa Wojcik gives a finely underwrought performance as Lucia Kroll. There’s pathos here if that’s what you’re looking for, but director Janusz Zaorski doesn’t bring any new insight to a well-worn theme. (BS) (Music Box, 3:00)

The Revolving Doors

Francis Mankiewicz’s French Canadian feature about the love life of a female pianist. A review appears under Saturday, November 5. (Univ. of Chicago, 3:00)


A French-Ivory Coast coproduction about an executive in France returning to his native Nagbanij. A fuller description appears under Saturday, November 5. (Biograph, 5:00)

Living Dangerously

This sentimental melodrama from Cuba interweaves love and urban guerrilla warfare in a tale of prerevolutionary heroes and heroines. The Cuban film and television industries are in flux, with bureaucratic shifts initiated to stimulate creativity; Living Dangerously (Clandestinos) was made on the eve of those changes. Fernando Perez, one of the young generation, bears watching. Having survived a lab disaster in which much of the original footage was lost, the film, made in 16-millimeter (rare in Cuba), is technically competent throughout. Moreover, the film breaks ground in Cuba for dealing not only with military heroics of the era, but with the personal dramas and heartbreaks of young revolutionaries. However, the film’s structure is resolutely predictable, with the banal flavor of a made-for-TV movie. (PA) (Music Box, 5:00)

Wherever You Are

Krzysztof Zanussi’s new English feature. A review appears under Saturday, November 5. (Univ. of Chicago, 5:00)

Illustrious Energy

In desolate New Zealand terrain in the late 19th century, Chan (Shaun Bao) and his elderly mining companion claw the earth for gold and plant plum trees, patronize a nearby saloon and yearn for families in China, which they haven’t glimpsed in more than 12 years. Director Leon Narbey has crafted a slow-paced but cumulatively absorbing narrative of the physical and emotional struggles of these Chinese immigrants that blends the cinematographic look and style of Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller with the tone (and music score) of Peter Weir’s early work, particularly Picnic at Hanging Rock. Young Chan does hit a pocket of the glittery stuff, freaks out in an opium den, trades warily with likewise mistrustful Caucasians, exasperates a Christian minister in theological debate, makes the acquaintance of a half-Chinese woman acrobat, and places wagers on a cricket fight–yes, a cricket fight–that may move some audience members to organize an association for the prevention of cruelty to insects. The themes crisscrossing every episode are the thin and perhaps dotted line between hope and delusion and the torment of choosing between self-fulfillment and deeply embedded, guilt-inspired duty, between seizing an opportunity for happiness now or clinging on to an image, a dream of contentment later. A very nicely and completely realized film. Definitely well worth a look. It’s not only Australia that’s churning out interesting cinema “down under.” (KJ) (Three Penny, 5:00)

The Yen Family

The latest in a long line of frenetic Japanese comedies, Yojiro Takita’s The Yen Family is a gleeful and often hilarious dissection of a nation’s obsession. The four members of the Kimura family form a model, if somewhat insane, blueprint for organizational efficiency. One thing and one thing only structures their lives–money, and nothing beats their ingeniousness for finding new ways to make it. Mom starts the day making panting erotic wake-up calls, Dad dispatches the ambulatory elderly on their daily delivery rounds, little brother presents itemized bills to unsuspecting visiting relatives, sis mobilizes her entire school for various moneymaking ventures, and the whole family energetically pitches in for the assembly-line production of prepackaged lunches. Yet paradoxically, for all their money grubbing, one would be hard pressed to find a more cheerful, bright-eyed, or fun-loving bunch than the Kimuras. If their love for one another takes some mighty peculiar forms–in their passionate nightly sexual exchanges, the husband must pay for each article of clothing his wife discards while she must reimburse him for each “thrust” received (as recorded on a kind of thigh-strapped odometer)–their affection nonetheless runs deep. Despite an occasional one-note stridency and an imperfect control of mood swings that shuttle too violently between satire and near-bathos, Takita’s nonstop inventive variations on a theme do sustain a film that, if never fully rising to its occasion, never falls too far below its premise. For in a society where traditional values have become ossified and repressive, The Yen Family raises the slyly fascinating question of whether money, far from being the root of all evil, may not instead be the only source of energy and human bonding left. (RS) (Biograph, 7:00)

Best of the Festival

A three- to four-hour screening of the winning feature film, student production, short subject, animation, documentary, and TV commercials. (Music Box, 7:00)


A French film about a beleaguered music producer. A fuller description appears under Saturday, November 5. (Univ. of Chicago, 7:00)

Consuelo, an Illusion

Not surprisingly, two experiences dominate Latin American film in the 80s–exile and the return from exile. Consuelo, an Illusion, a Chilean-Swedish coproduction and the second feature of director Luis R. Vera, deals with both. A young man, Manuel, flees Chile after the bloody coup of September 1973, leaving parents, lifelong friends, and fiancee (the Consuelo of the title). In Sweden he finds refuge and odd jobs, then a career and eventually even a woman (Lena) to share his life. But the culture shock is almost insurmountable. The distance between the rich confusion and passionate commitment of a country in turmoil and the distant apportioned civility of the social state is as great as the difference in climates–meteorological and emotional. So Manuel lives suspended between past and present, Chile and Sweden, Consuelo and Lena. Twelve years later, when Pinochet declares political amnesty, Manuel can at last go home. But the homeland he dreams of is not what he finds, and the gap between the lives of those who left and those who stayed behind begins to mirror his own displacement until, far from being a man with no country and no love, he becomes a man with three–the Chile and the Consuelo he left, the Chile and the Consuelo he’s returned to, and the Sweden and Lena from which he is now in exile. The weak points of Vera’s film are also its strong points–and are autobiographical. If Consuelo never transcends or translates its impasse, it nevertheless remains a faithful and convincing testimonial to its all-too-earthbound contradictions. (RS) (Three Penny, 7:00)

Rowing With the Wind

Byron swaggers, Shelley suffers (and can’t swim), Dr. Polidori sulks, Claire preens, and Mary Shelley scribbles a “ghost story” that someday will make Boris Karloff a household name. All this and much, much less happens during the illustrious group’s confabulations in their Romantic lakeside retreat in not-so-sunny Switzerland in 1816 far from prying bourgeois eyes, and it’s all disappointingly sophomoric and soporific stuff. Take Ken Russell’s Gothic. Strip away the idiotic eroticism, the gratuitously loathsome imagery, and the epileptic camera work (and his fun-loving mania) and what is left will be something very like this Norwegian-Spanish coproduction Rowing With the Wind, a dull literary treatise that only a shot of lightning would spark to life. The cast members behave like a bunch of Oxbridge undergrads who are too terribly pleased with themselves to pay much heed to the intentions of the script. Not unlike Gothic, the script aims to pry out the private torments of Mary Shelley to portray the Frankenstein creature as nothing more than an embodiment, so to speak, of her nighttime fussing and fretting. This strategy rather nicely reduces one of the finest moral tales of human responsibility for the products, both animate and inanimate, of technology to the more pallid dimensions of a 19th-century yuppie’s nightmare. Oh well. English majors might enjoy the challenge of disentangling the web of literary allusions anyway. With Hugh Grant (whose bland and cheery conceitedness Ken Russell uses to full perverse advantage in The Lair of the White Worm), Lizzy McInnerny, Elizabeth Hurley, and Valentine Pelka. Directed by Gonzalo Suarez. (KJ) (Biograph, 9:30)

The Abyss

Andre Delvaux’s Belgian feature about a persecuted doctor in the 16th century. A fuller description appears under Saturday, November 5. (Univ. of Chicago, 9:30)

Hard Times

Joao Botelho’s Portuguese adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. A review appears in last week’s Reader under Saturday, October 29. (Three Penny, 9:30)